Infill Condos in Tamalewood

Albuquerque isn’t wrongly associated with spicy Mexican food, high crime, and too much sun and desiccation. The Duke City, with the development of the film industry in their area, has even been called “Tamalewood.”

Since I was already running late to return home, why not visit another project or two, near my freeway on-ramp and 3 more hours to Las Cruces?

Photos 5/18/20:

I was part of the architect-led design team on two infill, multi-family residential projects as their landscape architect. (same architect as on the prior office post) On the above map, they are either side of Aliso Dr SE, just south or below Silver Ave SE. Both were developed in 2006 and 2008.

A friend told me the episodes of the Breaking Bad TV series my design was seen, but I forgot which. I never could get into that show!

But talk about “location, location”: near UNM, old Albuquerque in the valley, and their decent freeway system to the nearby mountains or other directions to endless wilds beyond.


Aliso I:

Quercus muhlenbergii / Chinquapin Oak and Dasylirion leiophyllum / Desert Candle are near-natives and growing well, although the oaks are in a tight area. The low, green lumps were originally thriving Teucrium chamaedrys / Trailing Germander, at each of the four corner planting areas of phase one.

But the landscape subcontractor hired by the general contractor or owner muscled their way by adding weed fabric, which also prevents such plants from trailing and rooting to control erosion on slopes, and forming the intent: a living, evergreen groundcover.

The maintenance contractor who I recommended also forgot the design intent, by pruning into lumps not allowed to fill out again.

Fortunately, I have photos of how that Trailing Germander once thrived, between the perils of the undeserving un-horticulturists.

This oak looks like it needs the drip emitters checked and repaired or a few added. Or inspected for maintenance damage to the bark. The time for such labor could easily come from the unnecessary time lumping each germander.

The west-east plantings are growing, all native. The original, permeable crushed gravel walkway was not cared for and was replaced with impervious concrete.

I never did catch the mid-spring flowering of my Wisteria sinensis / Wisteria choice. But that’s a steel trellis fitting for the vigor of wisteria…

Aliso was my name for this and the next project, used by the owner and architect while they were figuring out a name. The name was easy: not because alders (alisos) grow in ABQ, but rather, Aliso Drive SE bisects both condo projects.

Like a good name to brand anything, Aliso is easy to pronounce.


Aliso II:

This time another landscape contractor I recommended installed the second phase, and it came out better.

Though the maintenance contractor is the same one from phase one, who knew better and could have done only beneficial maintenance.

Such as ensuring that the irrigation is functioning optimally, including timing and additional emitters for tree growth, or thoughtful pruning of some plants like the cacti and trees. And suitable replacements in the rare but expected case of plant mortality.

As always, I tried.

And as always, good design often shows years later if one looks at more of the project, not cherry-picking what others did wrongly and not caused by the design.

Like this tragic row of “the customer is always right” so “shear them all”, instead of a stunning row of evergreen, foothills native dwarf trees, Cercocarpus breviflorus / Hairy Mountain Mahogany.

Here’s what a Hairy Mountain Mahogany looks like with slight but informed pruning.

That’s obviously not tall enough to block Sandia Mountains or city views. The second floor decks are too high even when seated, while the bottom floor decks have no view: they look to the sidewalks and two story townhomes across the street.

Which is why I used that dwarf tree, ideal for such constraints…

But overall, I’m pleased to see it. There’s no good reason for a garden designed well to not outlive me.


A live oak:

A sighting of this tree in the later 1990’s with central New Mexico’s oak advocate, then a chance conversation years later with a woman who grew up in this house, told much.

Presenting Quercus fusiformis / Escarpment Live Oak

It’s a long story for another post, but this tree was brought as a few acorns collected from a Dallas cemetery by that woman’s mother, from one of a few survivors of their worst freezes ever, in December 1983.

Even with the former Bermudagrass lawn replaced with rock, that live oak is thriving more than ever.


Albuquerque is gaining a critical mass who care for it, outnumbering the arcticism I met in 1992: xeric-escapists and zero-scapers. It’s satisfying to have added to the few exceptions I learned from way back.

With less montane-midwest-med, there’s more of a there, there.

Just drive around some more, past the zip-zags of mesic, non-native grasses, lollipop elms and ashes with dying tops, or lavenders.


My 3 hour drive into darkness, on the decompression of I-25 to my home in Las Cruces, the rapidly cooling breeze confirmed better times to come.

As I shut my car’s sunroof and windows.

Within days, a last breath of coolness before the next 4+ months.


Many people become designers by having something capture their emotions while functioning well, then they adapt it.

When done with consideration to one’s unique space, users, and the originator, that isn’t plagarism. Everything is inspired by something else. Very often we see other built designs, but ultimately that comes from something else in the natural world.

At the Desert Botanical Garden last week, I did that very thing.


Durable Barriers: steel posts and angle irons allowed to oxidize, as well as wire mesh and welding, combine a simple effect and rustic ambiance; I like both.


While the round stones-impressed-into-cement-in-a-handrail isn’t practical financially, using rebar verticals to allow plants to grow behind or through is desirable. Many of you know my appreciation of soft and sharp in nature or gardens.



Opaque Panels: sometimes these are taller than me, and other times like this they are short. No matter, what a great backdrop to create a focal point.



Generous Desert Forms: one may get “that looks like Phoenix…” (in a childish whine) from those who reject anything not Denver X Monet X tundra. I have. But part of regionalism is abstracting wild forms into a small vignette.

Round cactus pads dancing between vertical, stoic yucca trunks and some other spots of spikiness is the condensed version of countless land areas in my region. So, why not amp up our spiky sparsness?


I now live where regionalism is more acceptable. Those yuccas and cacti are all Chihuahuan and not remotely Phoenix (Sonoran), so they borrowed from us! While they work handsomely there, they work even better in Las Cruces.


Informal Hedging: softening or blocking the background, to enclose and privatize a space all year must be done without losing existing scenes and borrowed views. Such a balance will be a challenge in more than one area of my compact property.


While I had several Rhus ovata / Sugarbush at my first Albuquerque house, they were not used at my last house, so they get a leg up! This plant’s crisp, evergreen foliage and colors always got accolades.



Unusual Fillers: another specific plant packed in more than I would have thought grabbed my attention. Euphorbia antisyphillitica / Candelilla is native to lower elevations in the Chihuahuan Desert. Rarely used in southern New Mexico’s valley, it sustained only a little freeze damage at -5F to +5F in 2011, so this could fill in some tight planting areas I have. Maybe.



Water: on an incredibly balmy April day in 2012, this water feature told a story better than on my chilly, rain-washed “winter” day as I wore a bulky jacket. The form and warmer weather lighting nails down habitat related to the architecture and ecology. The bird might agree, too.


Many unbelievable situations conspired to get me out of probably never doing landscape design for others again, but that changes when it’s for me! I can see clean lines that reflect my modest home’s form, including a water feature with sculptural, spreading desert plants that thrive where I am.

So, ignore saguaros, palo verdes, or other tender, low desert fare. That tends to come with the territory in Phoenix.

Yes, there will be Gambel’s Quail, Curvebill Thrasher, Roadrunner, and several species of hummingbirds in my garden, especially if I can splurge on such a water feature.



Crunchy and Permeable: with only 10 percent of the space here, I’ll have less of this same thing, probably with larger 3/4 inch crushed rock so it’s less messy when walking inside onto carpet in the office to change the song, or the bedrooms.


Imagine the warm, crunchy sound walking on it, with the ability of the surface to absorb storm water to benefit tree roots. I’ll have less impervious paving than I did at the last house.


Light It Up: in summer, darkness means it’s bearable to be outside. Even if I momentarily spot the glowing eyes of a mountain lion or the careful pace of a coyote watching me on the grill. And at any time of the year, it’s nice to extend indoor living out, even if one bundles up to do so during our drive-by winter.


Seen On the Way to My Other Work

I first drove past this landscape in 2011. I was amazed at the sheer amount of mostly spiky plants used. Since, the owner has only added more and grouped some plants differently.

In face, this is where I sometimes park to do construction observation work at a nearby residence.


Potted Yucca recurvifolia and Hesperaloe parviflora, in-ground a specimen Agave salmiana, a Ferocactus wislizeni, and some Yucca thompsoniana clumps.


This looks striking as always against tiled, Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid architecture seen occasionally in a few higher end neighborhoods in El Paso.

My main question is the use of so much large rock much instead of something finer textured or smaller in size? That would allow many plants to show up more. Also, sunken grades might help hold in water to benefit the plants and still provide terrain interest.

I cropped out the hose, but hand-watering by hose might be the irrigation method over drip. I’m not sure.


Echinocactus grusonii overload, of course. Some Yucca faxoniana appear in back, to add height and show well against the home’s shady portal.


On the east side, there are some great examnples of Opuntia engelmannii and O. lindheimeri growing among Dasylirion wheeleri and Agave parryi.


And more golden barrels and yuccas.

Even a Larrea tridentata is growing against the wall, it’s wispy form adding softness to the sharp Yucca thompsoniana or Y. rostrata. And more E. grusonii.


In this spot, I can’t tell if the greener sotol is Dasylirion leiophyllum or D. acrotrichum. And what looks like a relative of Yucca faxoniana, though some will attribute the smaller head to Y. torreyi…too even of foliage growth for the latter, methinks.


I really enjoy this landscape, ahead of many with vast lawns and mesic plants. A few houses in this neighborhood are starting to update their front yards with lower water-use and native plants.

This landscape is already there, and then some.


8/20/18 weather:
96F / 73F / T or 36c / 23c / T